AUBURN – The new and vastly improved Auburn Public Library opens Monday. Workers were applying finishing touches to its cafe Thursday.

But those who donated to help build the $7 million library received thanks, a champagne reception and a tour Thursday night before the public opening.

And they liked what they saw as they milled about.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Keith Morgan of Auburn, standing in the grand reading room with tall ceilings and beautiful woodwork. “It’s so much bigger. The space is a lot nicer. It’s brighter. It’s more modern, but they’ve done a nice job retaining the historic aspects of the original building.”

Barbara Ring and Ruth Farnsworth of Auburn were on the second floor, admiring cushioned chairs that featured arms with wooden platforms making it easy to read or write. “It’s fantastic,” Ring said.

“Marvelous,” Farnsworth agreed.

The several hundred who took the tour were treated to champagne and appetizers. People smiled when entering the children’s room. It is more than twice the size of the old one, with abundant light and space. One side is for toddlers and small children – tiny tables and chairs – the other side for older children – with larger but still small tables and chairs. A carved owl perched high on a wall adds a touch of nature.

“This is the heart of the library,” said library director Rosemary Waltos. “This is where we’re nurturing young ones to read and to love books. It’s what all of our programs are all about,” Waltos said.

Not far is a separate space for teens, featuring funky chairs, teen-type books, movies and computers. Adjacent to a gift kiosk is the children’s program room where youngsters can create art projects or be read to. The three-floor library also features a cafe, a conference room, a computer lab, a history room, quiet study rooms and stacks and stacks of books.

Library space has more than doubled, from 13,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, said Richard Trafton, president-elect of the library trustees.

Thanking patrons at the reception, Trafton called the library a tribute to the city, which borrowed $3.5 million to fund the project, and a tribute to the more than 1,500 donors “who paid for this building.”

Before construction began in 2004, consultants projected that only $1.5 million would be able to be raised privately. Barbara Trafton, who headed the fundraising, proved them wrong, raising $2 million more.

As the reception ended she unveiled a clay, painted mural depicting a woods scene with a stream teaming with fish. At close inspection the names of patrons, engraved on the mural, are visible.

Patrons moved to the Hilton Inn for dinner where former Gov. Angus King was the keynote speaker.

After touring the library for himself, King called it beautiful. “It will be serving people in this region well into the next century. That’s a tribute to the vision of the people of this community.”

A library is the “essence of civilization, carrying the culture on from one generation to the next. It takes work, because people have a natural tendency to not be civilized,” King said.

Making a project like the library a reality takes what King called the four P’s: planning, partnership, perseverance and passion. That so much money was raised is an impressive act of civic pride and dedication, he said, especially when consultants said the most that could be raised was $1.5 million.

“Fortunately Barbara didn’t believe them. It’s very hard to say no to Barbara Trafton,” King said with a laugh.

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